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These earbuds are Sony’s response to the Apple Airpods Pro. Are they enough to dethrone it?

Ever since I started my audio-loving journey back in college, I’ve been a huge fan of audio equipment and have probably amassed a collection of 10 pairs of earphones and headphones.

Sadly, wired audio devices can be annoying to deal with. I’m sure we’ve had experiences of breaking headphones after dropping them by accident thanks to tangled wires.

Luckily over the years, we’ve had more wireless audio equipment cropping up thanks to the improvement of Bluetooth technology. However, if you talk to any audiophile (I don’t quite consider myself that yet) they’d say that wireless headphones will never beat wired ones in audio quality. 

I originally thought I would never sacrifice my love for audio quality for convenience, but that changed when I was introduced to the Sony WF-1000XM3. Ever since then, my love for wireless audio grew tenfold.

It was enough to win me over, and it now serves as my daily pair of earbuds. That was until I got my hands on the new Sony WF-1000XM4. But, how does it compare against the previous generation (WF-1000XM3) and the Apple Airpods Pro?

First impressions

At first glance, I’ve noticed the case of the WF-1000XM4 is marginally smaller than the previous generation, and that improves its portability. Surprisingly between the 3, only the WF-1000XM4 could stand by itself, while the others had a rounded bottom.

That said, the casing is not the only thing that has shrunk. Compared to the XM3, the XM4 buds are smaller and to me, they fit much better. With the XM3, I always had the niggling feeling that they’ll fall right out of my ears whenever I start moving too much. 

Thus, I feel safer taking them for a run too. Not to mention, the XM4 is also IPX4 rated so it can withstand sweat and rain.

While pairing the XM4 to my phone was fairly easy, you will need to download the Sony Headphones Connect app to fully utilise the earbuds’ capability. Sadly, the update was annoying to go through as I had to ensure my phone was nearby and I had to re-update for a few times for it to complete. But once the update is done, it’s smooth sailing the rest of the way.

Small but packs a punch

Audio-wise, do note that this is a subjective review and your mileage may vary. I am reviewing the XM4 based on my own music preference and tastes.

I personally enjoyed the sound coming out of the XM4 more than the XM3. It could be down to placebo or just ear tips of choice, but the music from the XM4 sounded cleaner, clearer, and had a more defined bass.

Coming up against the Apple Airpods Pro, I can earnestly say I prefer the XM4s (this is coming from an average Apple enjoyer too) because of the capability to tweak the equaliser based on my own preferences. If you want more bass or more treble, you can tweak it accordingly. With the Airpods Pro, you’re stuck with presets under Apple’s Music Settings, unless you tinker with it through third-party means.

Other notable features

The XM4 comes with 8 hours of listening time with noise cancellation on, and an additional 16 hours of battery life from the case. If you turn off noise cancellation, you can even stretch it up to 32 total hours of listening time. Meanwhile, the XM3 and the Airpods Pro hover around 30 hours and 28 hours respectively.

I’ve personally also noticed that between the three, the XM4 has better noise cancellation, better than the Airpods Pro even. I have a fan that blows directly in my face when working, and the XM4 manages to nullify most of the wind sound, whereas the Airpods Pro lets in some noise every now and then.

Sadly, the XM4 does have a downside that Sony hasn’t been able to completely master. The call quality is not on par with the Airpods Pro, but it is marginally better than the XM3.

Another annoyance with the XM4 is that it can’t be paired with multiple devices. It’ll take a while to unpair your phone and to pair it with your PC. While the Airpods Pro can’t do it seamlessly either, you can quickly unpair and pair the buds between Apple devices.

With how connected our lives are to devices now, it makes perfect sense for more brands to allow for multipoint connections, and this is something Sony should improve to increase adoption.

Like the Apple Airpods Pro, the Sony WF-1000XM4 can be charged wirelessly.

Verdict

I personally will put the Sony WF-1000XM4 as my TWS (truly wireless) earbuds of choice, even when I am using an iPhone. Its music quality, battery life, and noise cancellation sit on top of the pedestal of TWS earbuds.

However, its RM1,099 price tag might put off some people. But if you wish to have the best of the best, this is a worthy pickup. If in-ears aren’t your pick, the Sony WH-1000XM4, which is the headset version, is also worth a look.

Here are some specs for the geeks:

Sony WF-1000XM4Sony WF-1000XM3Apple Airpods Pro
PriceRM1,099RM899RM1,099
Battery Life (Buds)Up to 12 hours (NC off)Up to 8 hours (NC off)Up to 5 hours (NC off)
Battery Life (Case)Up to 32 hoursUp to 30 hoursUp to 28 hours
Noise CancellationActive Noise Cancellation + Ambient Sound ModeActive Noise CancellationActive Noise Cancellation + Transparency Mode
Bluetooth5.25.05.0
Audio CodecSBC, AAC, LDACSBC, AACSBC, AAC
Wireless ChargingYesNoYes
  • You can find out more about the Sony WF-1000XM4 here.
  • Read more VP Verdicts here.

VP Verdict is a series where we personally try and test out products, services, fads, and apps. Want to suggest something else for us to try? Leave a comment here or send the suggestion to our Facebook page.

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(UEN 201431998C.)

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